Zombie Books & Ethics

But perhaps not medicated enough?

But maybe not medicated enough?

My cousin announced that she intended to quit her job. “I hate books.”  She is very bored lately at her very good quasi-librarian job.

“No, you don’t.”

“No, I do.  I want to get out of the profession.”

“You don’t have to read at work,” I pointed out.  She doesn’t, as a matter of fact, read much at work.  Most of the time she sits at an island and answers patrons’ questions.

“Sometimes I do.”

Then she told me what had happened.  She had written a short review of a zombie novel for an online zombie book review publication–perhaps it’s called ZOMBEEEEZ.com, or animatedcorpse.net–but hadn’t bothered to finish the book first. The editor found a massive mistake in her review.   She has been blacklisted, if you can be blacklisted by an editor who works out of her home in pajamas editing a webpage which pays nothing and which nobody has ever heard of except a few zombie fans.

“Idiot!” I said, half-affectionately.

I think it is fair to say half of the people I know are mad.

It would never occur to me to review a book I hadn’t finished, but people do this and even boast about it.  Years ago, when I thought book reviews were the holy grail, an acquaintance boasted that he never finished the books he reviewed.  He employed a review formula that was popular at a particular small newspaper (which you haven’t heard of:  don’t worry, it’s not The New York Times), plugged in clichés at the appropriate points, and enjoyed deceiving the editor.  He claimed that the books were so bad that it didn’t matter whether or not he finished them.  They were “glib” and “poorly-written” whether he read the last page or not.

What a sophist!  Perhaps his story wasn’t true:  I don’t know.  I crossed him off my list of to-have-coffee-with friends, because it’s confusing to try to figure out what what is true or false in hyperbolic stories told by  someone who doesn’t know truth from lies.

My cousin does not have to review zombie books.  She actually likes zombie books.  I thought this was a fun thing for her.  Nobody at work knows she reviewed zombie books, so this idiotic thing won’t affect her career.

Is the sky falling, Chicken Little?  You say you’ll review it, you read it. You put at least that much into it, if nothing else.

It’s sitcom-funny, but not funny.

Where are her ethics?

She is forever pushing boundaries.

And  it is that mad time of year, Christmas.

She needs to make some decisions.

Like whether she really likes zombie books after all.

Like whether she f—ed up like this because she wants to read better books.

Maybe–though I doubt it–even this will turn out to have been a good thing.

forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. (Virgil, Aeneid, Book I).

“Perhaps someday it will please us even to remember this.”

Though I doubt it.

7 thoughts on “Zombie Books & Ethics

  1. 🙂 Love your description of the pajama wearing zombie editor! Your poor cousin does seem to invite disaster, doesn’t she?


  2. Ellen, I don’t know the academic world, but certainly my friends who reviewed fiction were careful about it: even reading the books twice. Even festschrifts deserve to be read.:)

    Karen, my assumption is that nobody goes on the internet without first putting on pajamas.:) Yes, my cousin should be a stunt woman or something.


  3. That’s the way to do it! I often announce that, too.

    But if someone gets paid to write a traditional review for a newspaper, I damned well want them to finish the book. Goodreads and blogs: we can do what they want. American newspaper: nope, somebody is supposed to be an expert, and the book must be completed prior to the attack.


  4. Something has happened. Librarians read but don’t finish novels about zombies, then write reviews for such books for online book-review sites that pay nothing. I don’t get it. I don’t get a professional book designer telling me that “I just finished the best zombie novel I’ve ever read.” This can only mean he reads lots of zombie novels, and views them as a separate book category, like romances or thrillers. Nope. Just don’t get it.


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